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Captivating performance by Aishwarya Ananth Karthik
- Hari Shankar
Photos: Vaibav Aggarwal

April 21, 2020

Bharatanatyam has undergone tremendous improvisations and modifications which nurtured the style into an all time acceptable and entertaining art form for even the unlearned audience, transcending the boundaries and barriers of countries, language, regional and religious constraints. The open artistic space that Bharatanatyam offers both the dancer and the audience, utilizing it for re-framing and re-defining themes and various other aspects like compositions used in the repertoire, the time period, social and economical changes of the society, without deviating from the deep rooted traditions always remained a great challenge for dancers. Guru Prof. Sudharani Raghupathy's name is one of the foremost among them. Known for her deep research on this dance form, unearthing different possibilities, which nourished the dance style, made her win not only several national and international accolades and honors, but also the hearts of her audience.

In a recent performance, Bangalore-based dancer Aishwarya Ananth Karthik, a disciple of Sudharani Raghupathy, enthralled audience in Delhi with her guru's unique choreographies in an evening organized by India Habitat Centre at Stein Auditorium. Unlike the usual margam format, Aishwarya started with a Brahma Kautvam, one among the Navasandhi Kautvams. These Kautvams were performed in temples of Tamil Nadu when the main deity was taken out from the sanctum sanctorum for the ceremonial procession. It is in praise of gods that guard the eight directions and meet in the centre point called Brahma Sandhi, hence the name, Brahmasandhi Kautvam. These are small three to four minute compositions, comprising of sollukettus and sahityam. This item set in Madhyamavathi and rupaka talam enounced characteristic adavus with jumps that reminds one of the typical Sudharani style of dancing. These items with its traditional aesthetics are rarely done in usually short duration performances in Delhi.

The famous varnam of the Tanjore Quartet, "Saami ninne kori" set in Ragamalika and rupakam, a bracing performance of thirty-five minutes, was really like a Bharatanatyam connoisseur's dream coming into reality. The nayika says, 'Oh my Lord Shiva, you are my love, the one who has contained the majestic Ganga on his matted hair, the one who wears the celestial moon as his crown.' The nayika, deeply consumed by the love for her Lord, beautifully draws an analogy where she mentions about Rukmini measuring her love for Lord Krishna by Thulabharam (an ancient Hindu practice in which a person is weighed against the equivalent weight of a commodity which is offered as a donation) where she contained her love in that single Tulsi leaf that she placed as her offering to Krishna, "but I have no means to measure my love for you, which is eternal and immeasurable. I had my upbringing itself listening to your greatness. All day I eagerly await your coming and embracing me. My love for you has reached the pinnacle. O Brihadeeswara of Tanjavur, who always comes for his devotees, please come to my rescue." The caliber of the dancer was fully explored not only by her dancing but the whole choreography as always a guru aims to do, found all success in this composition. The complex jatis and footwork were the main highlights along with limited controlled expressions when and where required.

"Smarasi pura", an excerpt from Kuchelopakhyanam, a composition of Travancore king Swati Tirunal, depicted the friendship between Lord Krishna and Sudhama (Kuchela). Here, Aishwarya efficiently presented the varied emotions of two friends, stories back in their gurukula days at ashram of their guru, Saandeepani, brought repose from the energetic varnam both for the audience and the dancer. This was set in ragam Kapi and adi talam.

The royal composer's usual abhinaya piece, "Chaliye kunjanamo", was set in Brindavana Saranga and adi talam where the 'Samyoga sringara' nayika asks her Lord Krishna to come with her to the garden where they can be together, the place where flowers bloom. There river Yamuna flows beautifully quenching the thirst of earth, "and listen, my Lord, the cuckoo is saying that, this is the moment of love; so please come with me." This item showcased the dancer's expertise in abhinaya with ease and sophistication.

Aishwarya concluding her recital with a Tillana of Vidwan Madurai N Krishnan, made a satisfying culmination of an exhilarating performance. Unlike the usual practice of performing with a live orchestra, the whole recital was performed with recorded music due to the hassles in getting her outstation accompanying artistes to Delhi. Unfortunately, the organizers didn't provide any compere which left the dancer herself to do the tiresome job of dancing and compering. The comparatively thin audience, being a busy working day, paved the way for engrossed dance lovers to fully relish the performance and enjoy the recital at its best. Aishwarya is for sure, a promising dancer, who with profound fine tuning under her guru, can contribute much to the field of Bharatanatyam.

Delhi based A.M. Hari Shankar is currently working as an Editor in a leading publishing company by profession, a percussionist and an art enthusiast by passion.

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